In It to Win It

Home / Bidding Quarterly / In It to Win It


We worked on an absolutely wonderful proposal last year.

The perfect recipe: take a dash of proposal strategy and a subtle hint of storyboarding. Add a blend of great writing with the delicate flavour of fine design. Mix in a soupçon of peer review to taste. Bake with some elegant project leadership.

The dish: visually stunning. Wonderfully written. Captivating win themes throughout the document. All creating empathy with and inspiring joie de vivre for the readers.

Dish? That’s so singular. Because the written proposal was served with a fine array of accompaniments. The microsite, the exec brochure, the sparkling presentation collateral. If a certain brewer did proposals, this would be it.

The evaluators loved it.

So too did our client’s CEO. One of the most senior people in their profession, with years of experience. Incredibly commercially astute. “By far the best proposal I’ve ever seen,” came the verdict.

Readers, it lost.

A competitor came in at a fraction of the price. And when I say ‘fraction’, don’t think ‘half’. Think way lower than that. They’d come in with (how shall I put it?) ‘a remarkably radical commercial offer’. (The phrase ‘bought the business’ always seems so crass, doesn’t it?)

Perfect proof, then, that you can’t measure proposal people on win rate, right? There’s so much in the overall sales process we can’t control. And we’re not responsible for designing the solution or the cost and pricing model, right?

So proposal teams look towards a balanced scorecard. Seeking client feedback at every turn. Measuring the satisfaction of key internal stakeholders with the work they’ve done. Objectively and independently assessing their capabilities and output using the best tools and experts out there. Passionately caring about the wellbeing, diversity and inclusivity of the team.

Sharpening their act and delivering efficiency gains, tracking the benefits of the improvement initiatives they initiate. Clearly articulating the contribution the proposal team makes to their organisation’s overall health: 58% of our revenues flow from bids we’ve helped win. 67% of our colleagues owe their jobs to past wins. That sort of thing.

But win rate?

Here’s the thing. Let’s imagine your proposal team loses every deal it works on in the next twelve months. Would that feel right? Would your CEO or Sales Director by happy with the ‘Not our fault, guv’ refrain? Obviously not.

Then win rate does absolutely, fundamentally matter, right? We’re all agreed.

If you’re not in it to win it, you’re in the wrong game. Winning is our goal, whatever your contribution to your proposal team. That’s why they pay our bills. And that’s why our mission must always be to win more, and win more easily.

This article was written by Jon Williams.

Jon and his team work with clients worldwide to help them establish winning proposal capabilities and to capture major deals. He has built and led numerous bid and proposal centres; managed, reviewed and benchmarked countless proposals; worked in over 35 countries; and trained many thousands of course participants.

Back to Foreword